So it’s come to this.
Last week, America and the world watched in horror as a mob whipped into a frenzy by Donald Trump’s lies stormed the U.S. Capitol and attempted to stop Congress from performing its constitutional duty to affirm Joe Biden as the winner of a free and fair presidential election.
Now there are warnings of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitols, according to an internal FBI bulletin obtained by ABC News.
The bulletin goes on to state that the FBI has intelligence about a group calling for Trump supporters to storm state, local and federal courthouses and administrative buildings if the president is removed from office before Inauguration Day. Further, ABC News reported, the document says the group is planning to storm government offices in every state on the day President-elect Biden is sworn into office.
This isn’t America. This is madness.
In this country, we choose our leader every four years at the ballot box — not at the point of a gun.
America’s greatest gift to the world arguably is our tradition of the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next, something we have managed to do without fail for more than two centuries — 39 times since George Washington left office after the election of 1796 and handed over the country to his successor, John Adams.
That sort of continuity is a rare and precious thing. The United States Constitution has been in effect since 1789. Only three sovereign states in the world — Oman, San Marino and Vatican City — have endured longer under their current forms of government.
As the events of the past week have amply demonstrated, the American experiment in creating a democratic republic remains a fragile one. It has worked up to this point because we as a people put our faith in our democratic institutions — our system of checks and balances, the sanctity of the ballot box — rather than any single individual.
Now those institutions are under assault.
Even before his own inauguration four years ago, Donald Trump was falsely claiming the 2016 election was rigged — an election he won.
Ever since, he has been hammering away at the electorate’s faith in Congress, in the courts, in the electoral process, piling lie upon lie as he relentlessly undermined the foundations of our democracy in order to build up his personal power base.
In November, when he decisively lost the election to Joe Biden, Trump had a choice: In the best tradition of American politics, he could graciously concede defeat, congratulate his opponent and urge his supporters to give their allegiance and support to their new president. Or he could reject the will of the voters and selfishly attempt to hold onto power.
Trump made his choice. He put himself above our country. As he has done throughout his presidency, he stoked the flames of division with lies, and the result was a forcible attempt to overturn the election that left at least five people dead, including a Trump supporter killed by police, an officer who reportedly died after struggling with rioters, and three people who suffered medical emergencies.
As we have said before, Trump bears responsibility for what happened at the Capitol and should be removed from office through legal means, such as impeachment. The rioters who broke through the police cordon and invaded the building also need to be held accountable under the law for what has to be considered an act of insurrection. And Republican members of Congress who cynically echoed the president’s false claims of election fraud should at the least be formally censured.
Many of Trump’s most devoted followers call themselves patriots. But patriotism doesn’t mean loyalty to an individual. It means loyalty to one’s country.
As Americans, we all need to unite behind what truly makes this republic great — not a would-be despot, but our sacred democratic institutions.
We don’t need armed protests at statehouses. We don’t need angry mobs trying to overturn legitimate election results because their candidate lost.
This is a time to listen to our better angels and start to knit our country back together.